When was the last time you've allowed yourself to relax?
This question should not be difficult to answer, but if you are trying a little too hard to remember, then maybe, it's been entirely too long since. Relaxation is necessary to reduce the pressure and stress on the mind and the body.
But, listen: it does not mean that you can lay on the couch all day while flipping channels on the television and eating junk food to your heart's content! While it is true that the idea of relaxation varies from one individual to the next, a positive health goal should still be in place to achieve a rewarding state of true inner peace.
Benefits of Relaxation
It's hard to get a free moment or a breather nowadays, especially with the stress from last-minute holiday preparations and the struggle to cope with a global health threat looming overhead all the time. Still, for these exact reasons, a person needs to take a step back and relax! This article from the Mayo Clinic explains how stress symptoms can take a toll on our health without realizing it: we may think that an illness or disease is causing recurring headaches, insomnia, or low energy and productivity, but the culprit might be stress.
Stress affects the body and the mind, including our mood, feelings, and behavior. If left alleviated, stress could lead to major health issues like heart diseases, obesity, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes.
And this is where relaxation comes in. Aside from reducing stress and anxiety, relaxation offers other benefits such as:
Improving the blood flow – When the body is in a relaxed state, the entire circulatory system functions more efficiently so that there is enough blood flow to major organs without the heart having to pump harder than it should. In this way, good blood circulation benefits the heart and the brain; it lowers blood pressure and helps enhance a person's ability to concentrate.
Better digestion – Have you noticed that being in stressful situations directly impacts your digestion? When you are busy, stressed, or anxious, you do not have the time to consume nutritious foods, or worse, your body experiences gastrointestinal distress. In an online article, Harvard Health Publishing recommended relaxation therapy as a psychotherapy option for people experiencing gastrointestinal issues due to stress.
Relieve chronic pain – This condition affects roughly 20 percent of the adult population in the US. Most doctors advise relaxation as a standalone cure or in conjunction with proper medication to lessen discomfort and regain mobility in affected areas.
Relaxation Exercises To Try at Home
At the top of our list, deep breathing is a science-backed (and therefore effective) relaxation exercise. Deep breathing provides a quick and convenient way to manage stress levels and consider as a foundation of other relaxation techniques. You can do it anytime or combine it with soothing music or aromatherapy for a more significant impact.
Here is how to do it: take a long, deep breath, hold it for a while, then exhale slowly. You will feel instantly relaxed after.
As explained on the University of Michigan Health site, there is also a morning breathing technique. When you wake up in the morning, this relaxation exercise removes muscle stiffness and blockage from the nasal passages. To do this, you need to stand, bend forward from the waist with the knees in a slightly bent position and the arms dangling near the floor. Slowly, inhale as you stand, and make sure to lift your head last. While standing, try to hold your breath in for several moments, then exhale, slowly again, as you return to the first position (bending forward from the waist).
Take note of how you feel after the process. If needed, you can repeat the exercise during the day to relieve tension from your back.
Practice autogenic relaxation
Define as "something that comes from within you", Autogenic exercise requires you to close your eyes and think of any setting that makes you happy, peaceful, and calm. Try to imagine it as vividly as possible: pay close attention to everything you can see, smell, hear, feel, and taste. The more sensory details you can incorporate, the better. You can also repeat words of affirmation in your mind to help you relax.
Classical yoga started as a traditional Eastern practise focusing on self-development through ethical disciplines and stress-reducing techniques. Nowadays, a widely accepted essential part of yoga called pranayama (breathwork) effectively relaxes the body. Pranayama refers to a person's ability to control or regulate their breath, and this is done by taking a deep breath and then focusing on every inhale and exhale. Your mind will be cleared in no time!
Walking is a physical activity that has some surprising benefits to mental health. One study cited that walking outside or indoors for a few minutes a day can reduce anxiety and boredom. Research proves that walking is guaranteed to make you happier (and lose a few pounds in the process!), so go out for a walk if you feel stressed or overwhelmed.
Listen to music
Music has always been a good mood-booster, so why not use it to relax? Play some soothing sounds while practicing breathing exercises to set the ambiance, or if you are feeling down or under the weather, listen to happy, playful tunes as a perk-me-up.
These are just a few examples of simple relaxation exercises; there are plenty of others that you can try! You can explore podcasts and meditation videos on the Internet to guide you while practicing relaxation techniques if you have time.
It would be best if you didn't put too much pressure on yourself – your mind and body should always be in sync to achieve a relaxed state.